Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) claimed his first Tour de France stage victory with a tenacious uphill sprint in Rodez, relegating Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) to second place once again. Sagan could be consoled with more points toward the green jersey on the stage. Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale) was a distant third, and there were no changes to the top of the general classification.
Three breakaway riders, Wilco Kelderman (LottoNl-Jumbo), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Cyril Guatier (Europcar) made it a nail-biter of a finish, holding on until the very last meters only to be denied as Van Avermaet led Sagan past. After losing out in the intermediate sprint to Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Sagan extended his lead in the points classification to 24 points with his fourth second-place stage finish of this Tour de France.
“It was really close. I went really early because in Le Havre I waited too long I think," Van Avermaet said. "I tried to go almost from the bottom. It was really long and the last 100 metres kept going forever. I saw that there was somebody in my wheel so I just kept on sprinting and hoped that they wouldn’t come over.
“I have a very good team and to win the stage is very good. We’ve been doing well so far in this Tour and I think that this victory is a reflection of that performance.”
For Sagan, it was the 15th time he has finished second in a Tour de France stage, and he was understandibly frustrated to have fallen short again. "It’s not bad luck," he said. "It was mistake because I was waiting for too long. I was pushing out of the saddle and then I came to his Van Avermaet’s wheel and I sat down. That was my mistake because I needed to carry on pushing so that I could win. But it was my mistake and I’m pissed now."
It was a searing hot day on the 198.5km route from Muret to Rodez, and the main difficulty for the overall contenders was staying hydrated. Both Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali suffered punctures on the stage, but both managed to get back in to finish safely. Bauke Mollema (Trek) had a scare in the final 2km with a flat tire. Chris Froome retains his lead over Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
The run-in to the finish line turned into a heated affair, but Froome clung tightly to his rivals in the uphill sprint. He expects more of the same tomorrow, but is confident he can withstand the attacks.
"Today’s climb was only 500m long but there were gaps opening up, and the finish up to Mende tomorrow could be quite selective again," Froome said. "It’s 3km long but quite steep at over 10%, so I’d expect the GC contenders to be putting the pressure on. My legs are feeling good though, so I’m looking forward to it.
"I think Nairo Quintana and Tejay van Garderen are my two closest rivals – they’re the two closest guys to me on the general classification. I’m in a great position but this is far from over."
How it unfolded
Stage 13 from Muret to Rodez is one of the few transitional stages in the second half of the race, and it happened to be the home turf of FDJ's Alexandre Geniez, who grew up in Rodez and still lives in La Primaube just 10km from the finish. Geniez kicked off the day's action, sparking the breakaway together with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo). Having suffered from a stomach ailment earlier in the Tour, Cannondale-Garmin's Nathan Haas decided that he wanted to be in the move, and joined Pierre-Luc Périchon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) in bridging across to make it six in the move.
Sensing the train was leaving the station, Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Perrig Quémeneur (Europcar) desperately tried to jump on board, but were too late to latch on, and after a few kilometers pursuit, the pair were absorbed by the peloton.
The breakaway was kept in check at between three and four minutes by Giant-Alpecin, who looked keen to set up Degenkolb for the sprint. There was a test of the legs in Laboutarie at kilometer 92.5, where Andre Greipel claimed nine points behind the breakaway, beating Degenkolb and Cavendish to the line. Sagan was knocked down in the virtual green jersey standings and trailed the German by one point.
The peloton busy throughout the stage, going back for bottles and ice socks to keep cool in the searing heat and constant undulating hills. Alberto Contador himself shuttled bottles in his jersey after being set back with a puncture.
After the day's first climb, the Côte de Saint-Cirgue, taken by De Gendt, the peloton was just over three minutes behind the breakaway when AG2R's Jean-Christophe Peraud crashed himself in the middle of the peloton, causing a split in the bunch. The Frenchman, bloodied and his kit in tatters, bravely soldiered back and forth from the medical car before emerging at the tail and of the main peloton, wrapped up in bandages.
Geniez led the breakaway over the Côte de la Pomparie with 42km to go as the Tinkoff-Saxo team rallied to bring the gap under three minutes in order to help Sagan regain his position in the green jersey standings. Their efforts succeeded in putting Greipel into difficulty on the 3.9km Côte de la Selve and the German was dropped as Tinkoff-Saxo continued to chip away at the breakaway's advantage.
As the gap fell to 90 seconds, Haas decided to go for broke, and took advantage of a quick descent to distance his former companions, but an uncategorized climb proved his undoing and he settled back into the six-man group.
With 15km to go, the breakaway had 1:20 and the unclassified climb of La Primaube to get over. Périchon was the first to be dropped as De Gendt pushed the pace, and Geniez was also distanced. Kelderman put in a dig and was followed by Gautier and, after some distance, De Gendt and Haas bid the group adieu.
The trio crested the ascent with only a minute's advantage, and on the straight road the remainder of the breakaway and the peloton were all in sight behind, with plenty of sprinters still in its midst. Giant-Alpecin was there for Degenkolb, and MTN-Qhubeka, too, who came to the fore to mow down the remnants of the move.
De Gendt, Kelderman and Gautier had 30 seconds with 6km to go, but when the rest of the sprinters' teams started pitching the gap came down as steadily as the road that descended into Rodez. Though they fought bravely until the final meters, they were finally caught in sight of the line.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||4:43:42|
|2||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale||0:00:03|
|4||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin||0:00:07|
|5||Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step||0:00:17|
|16||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo|